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Charlotte Vanden Eynde

Charlotte Vanden Eynde is a dancer and a choreographer. She is a second-generation P.A.R.T.S. student (from 1996 to 1999). In her very personal performances and dance pieces she focuses on the body as a sculptural entity. Even in her early work - Benenbreken (1997), Zij Ogen (1998), Vrouwenvouwen (1999) - vulnerability, intimacy and femininity are highly visible themes. Lijfstof (2000) was a co-creation with Ugo Dehaes about objects and costumes. She studies the performative possibilities offered by the body as an object/material. In MAP ME (2003), which she developed with Kurt Vandendriessche, video images are projected on to their bodies. She returns to pure movement in Beginnings/Endings (2005), a piece for six dancers. After this group production she realised that she preferred to work alone or in small groups. In the dance solos I’m Sorry It’s (Not) A Story (2009) and Shapeless (2011) she continues to develop her distinctive dance language. Deceptive Bodies (2014, with Dolores Bouckaert) depicts the body in a hysterical straitjacket.

In addition to her own creations Charlotte Vanden Eynde collaborates with theatre makers Jan Decorte (2001-2003) and De Roovers (2010-2012), and dances in productions by Marc Vanrunxt (Most Recent, 2002) and Ugo Dehaes (DMNT, 2015). She plays the lead role in the film Meisje, by Dorothée Van Den Berghe for which she won the Best Actress Award in Amiens in 2002. Meanwhile she also performs improvisation solos on location. As a movement coach and dramaturge she follows creations from new dance makers and teaches improvisation and creation workshops to students and amateurs. Authentic movement and the visual power of the body are key therein.

She sees no other option than to be consciously vulnerable. She creates an alienating effect with very simple and familiar acts. Thus the spectator involuntarily ponders: so what is our body, which we can fold, stretch, twist and use so very differently than we usually do?

Charlotte Vanden Eynde's choreography is characterised by three properties. Firstly, there is the intriguing duality of her appearance: extremely feminine and tough, fragile and resolute at the same time. She combines the attractive and girlish with movements that are at odds with these descriptions. She does not seek beauty because she has something else she wants to communicate. Vanden Eynde calls it 'transparency': to be seen, to see, try out movements, occupy space and time. She sees no other option than to be consciously vulnerable. She creates an alienating effect with very simple and familiar acts. Thus the spectator involuntarily ponders: so what is our body, which we can fold, stretch, twist and use so very differently than we usually do?

Her hybrid appearance is closely associated with a second, often recurring theme in her choreography: gender and feminism. To Vanden Eynde feminism means, first and foremost, to search for who you are and what you want to be, and does not involve conflict with the opposite sex. She was aware of the male gaze from an early age. Why is this so important? And why is it that seeing and being seen is a game played by both men and women? From an early age she was afflicted with heightened self-awareness, physical as well as mental, which is something she brings to the stage. In the solo I’m Sorry It’s (Not) A Story she alternates between playing the insolent child and the seductive young woman. Her performance does not reaffirm any clichés but looks for new ways of interpreting the roles. In the unexpected poses and movements she also goes astray. Then you see the humour break through in her work. Here's an excerpt from this performance:

Experimentation is extremely important to Charlotte Vanden Eynde. She doesn't interpret experimentation in a conceptual or intellectual manner, as she wants to see a person on stage, not ideas. Nevertheless you see her actively thinking, and searching in her work. Dancing is a form of thinking for the Ghent based choreographer. Furthermore her work always includes a dramaturgical process: no actual narrative, but a development. In Deceptive Bodies she lapses into hysteria along with Dolores Bouckaert (they transform into hysterical patients that were staged by Charcot for students studying psychiatry in Paris at the beginning of the last century). Their bodies slowly take on theatrical poses.

The third characteristic element in Vanden Eynde’s dance work is perhaps the most important: by escaping established, imposed forms she strives to explore new, free movements. "On stage your honesty can take a different form from that in the normal world - where people think you are crazy if you move in the same way." This is exactly what she demonstrates with body language, by continuously playing and jumping from a child to a woman, from love to cruelty, from defencelessness to obstinacy.

By escaping established, imposed forms she strives to explore new, free movements.

In Shapeless she intentionally escapes the established (dance) steps. A classical body that does not perform classically, which courts amorphousness, the elusive and chaos. 'Wild' in the sense of the untamed, out of context, like the Dadaists' 'wild thoughts'. This is how Charlotte Vanden Eynde creates a different representation than that of the traditional image of women/girls, but using the same traditional, physical ingredients. She also appears to meticulously achieve the expected image, to subsequently be able to break free of it. And thus she is also able to create for us, spectator and non-dancer, a freedom of movement and of being (oneself).

Author:
Mia Vaerman

Mia Vaerman is a dance and theatre critic. She also teaches cultural theory at the RITCS and translates philosophy.